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Survey confirms problems in wood industry

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Raw logs will continue to be shipped overseas unprocessed unless there is serious attention paid by the government to the wood processing industry, a union for workers in the sector says.

Today's Economic Survey of Manufacturing reports a 0.7 per cent decline in the volume of wood and paper product manufacturing sales in the September 2011 quarter. The sector has declined five out of the past eight quarters.

FIRST Union General Secretary Robert said that exporters of raw logs were making money, but many value-added wood processors were downsizing or being put out of business.

"We face the real risk that New Zealand will be unable to fully capitalise on the processing side of one of our largest industries - forestry."

"Unless we take steps to better structure our economy to take full advantage of our resources, we risk seeing less value-added manufacturing in areas like wood processing, because the value we add can often be beaten by China or India's low wages and costs."

"Surely New Zealanders would rather a more ambitious strategy for our economic development than simply being exporters of unprocessed or marginally processed primary products?"

Robert Reid said that the country could not shirk away from a meaningful debate on alternative monetary policy settings that supported all manufacturing exporters.

"Manufacturing is still this country's third largest employing industry. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers deserve a proper response from government, on policy settings that support their jobs, and help share economic wealth."

Yesterday it was reported Eurocell would close its Upper Hutt sawmill in March, with the loss of up to 40 jobs.

There have been 1,300 reported redundancies in wood processing since 2008, but the figure may be much higher once unreported job losses and attrition is factored in, Robert Reid said.

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